When one tells people that one is going to Mallorca for one’s holidays, the response tends to be one of faint confusion. ‘Isn’t it all sunburnt Englishmen demanding full English breakfasts to soak up their hangovers, while sinking pint after pint of San Miguel, por favor?’ No doubt there are many parts of the island that do cater to such an unenlightened crew. Yet there are others, most notably the old town of Palma and its environs, that are so beautiful, and a perfect blend of tranquillity and excitement, that a visit there makes for the most glorious of long weekends, particularly if you stay in a hotel that is perfectly suited to the glamorous and inspiring aspects of the city.
But first things first. No visit to Palma is complete without spending plenty of time walking around the old town, and a visit to the Gaudi-assisted cathedral is an unmissable treat for any visitor. Its monumental structure towers over the surrounding streets, and its blend of medieval and modernism offers a startling reminder of how this island has evolved over the past few hundred years, even as you leave, simultaneously exhilarated and slightly overwhelmed by the sheer gloriousness of what you have seen.
There is a veritable cornucopia of places to dine, sip and quaff round the centre of the old town, but my own personal tip would be to walk twenty minutes or so away from the sea, up to the quite glorious San Juan Gastronomic Market. Here, one finds a cornucopia of food stalls, all serving anything from traditional tapas (the croquettas, in particular, are to die for) to more far-flung dishes, including Mexican, faultless mini-burgers, Thai and fresh seafood. It’s tempting to spend far too much money, and time, here, but given how reasonably priced things are compared to what you might encounter in Britain, it is an extravagance that one can allow oneself.
Obviously, staying somewhere suitably chic and classy is a prerequisite, and thankfully it isn’t too hard to find somewhere, in the discreet and stylish form of the Innside Palma Center. An outpost of a small Spanish group of hotels, the Innside prides itself on extraordinarily comfortable and stylish rooms, a fascinating display of modern art in both public and private spaces, and, of course, two swimming pools, one lurking sedately in the basement, and another all but begging ‘jump into me’ on the top floor.
It is here that some truly extraordinary food is served, courtesy of the much-acclaimed Garabato Sky Bar. During my stay, I am treated to a kind of impromptu tasting menu of many of the chef’s specialties, and soon sink into a kind of giddy gourmet nirvana, so glorious are the highlights. Gazpacho with herrings eggs; utterly perfect braised squid tentacles; the finest Iberican pork loin I can ever remember eating; and, so, so much more. Washed down with a couple of marching-strength ‘gin-tonics’, to say nothing of a Rioja that describes itself as ‘Terrible’ but is nothing of the kind, it all led to one of the most extraordinarily fun and unexpected experiences I’ve had all year.
There are many other sides to Palma, of course, other than God and gluttony. The beaches are legendary, the shopping excellent, and many of the bars are up there with Spain’s finest. But, for my money, it’s the Innside that makes a visit here a truly memorable thing. We can guarantee that you won’t leave disappointed.
More information can be found about Palma, including details of how to plan your trip, on the official Mallorca Tourism website at www.infomallorca.net.